Saturday, December 3, 2011

Legal Info about Unlawful Assembly

"Unlawful Assembly at Protest: Legal Info (Failure to disperse)"
by Sue Basko, 2011-12-03:
Unlawful assembly laws differ state to state, but most of them follow the same thread. An assembly is a group of people who gather for some purpose or activity. If that activity is illegal, it is an unlawful assembly. If the activity is legal, but turns unlawful or looks as if it might, it can be declared an unlawful assembly.
California Penal Code Section 407. Whenever two or more persons assemble together to do an unlawful act, or do a lawful act in a violent, boisterous, or tumultuous manner, such assembly is an unlawful assembly.
“Boisterous or tumultuous” means “conduct that poses a clear and present danger of imminent violence” or when the crowd is gathered to do an unlawful act.

Please read these rules below, which are taken directly from the Oakland Police Department Crowd Control and Crowd Management Policy, a golden bit of information that any protester should download and read. Please read the script that the police use to declare an unlawful assembly and issue an order to disperse. It is the same announcement as that used last night by the LAPD.
If you are ever at a protest where such an order is issued, pay special attention to how you are supposed to exit, and allow others to exit and not be kettled up. Last night, a lot of people were trapped and unable to move away because they had a police riot line a few inches in front of them and a densely packed group of people behind them. The people behind, many of whom were reporters or photographers, were pushing forward to see what was happening, which, as already explained, was a funny man riding a bicycle.

From: Oakland Police Department Crowd Control and Crowd Management Policy (I strongly recommend that you download and read this Oakland policy, no matter where you are. )
F. When an Unlawful Assembly May Be Declared
1. The definition of an unlawful assembly has been set forth in Penal Code Section 407 and interpreted by court decisions. The terms, “boisterous” and “tumultuous,” as written in Penal Code Section 407, have been interpreted as “conduct that poses a clear and present danger of imminent violence” or when the demonstration or crowd event is for the purpose of committing a criminal act.
The police may not disperse a demonstration or crowd event before demonstrators have acted illegally or before the demonstrators pose a clear and present danger of imminent violence.

2. The mere failure to obtain a permit, such as a parade permit or sound permit, is not a sufficient basis to declare an unlawful assembly. There must be criminal activity or a clear and present danger of imminent violence.

3. The fact that some of the demonstrators or organizing groups have engaged in violent or unlawful acts on prior occasions or demonstrations is not grounds for declaring an assembly unlawful.

4. Unless emergency or dangerous circumstances prevent negotiation, crowd dispersal techniques shall not be initiated until after attempts have been made through contacts with the police liaisons and demonstration or crowd event leaders to negotiate a resolution of the situation so that the unlawful activity will cease and the First Amendment activity can continue.

5. If after a crowd disperses pursuant to a declaration of unlawful assembly and subsequently participants assemble at a different geographic location where the participants are engaged in non-violent and lawful First Amendment activity, such an assembly cannot be dispersed unless it has been determined that it is an unlawful assembly and the required official declaration has been adequately given.

G. Declaration of Unlawful Assembly

1. When the only violation present is unlawful assembly, the crowd should be given an opportunity to disperse rather than face arrest.

Crowd dispersal techniques shall not be initiated until OPD has made repeated announcements to the crowd, asking members of the crowd to voluntarily disperse and informing them that, if they do not disperse, they will be subject to arrest.

These announcements must be made using adequate sound amplification equipment in a
manner that will ensure that they are audible over a sufficient area. Announcements must be made from different locations when the demonstration is large and noisy. The dispersal orders should be repeated after commencement of the dispersal operation so that persons not present at the original broadcast will understand that they must leave the area.

The announcements shall also specify adequate egress or escape routes. Whenever possible, a minimum of two escape/egress routes shall be identified and announced.
It is the responsibility of the on-scene OPD commanders to ensure that all such announcements are made in such a way that they are clearly audible to the crowd.

2. Unless an immediate risk to public safety exists or significant property damage is occurring, sufficient time will be allowed for a crowd to comply with police commands before action is taken.

3. Dispersal orders should be given in English and in other languages that are appropriate for the audience.

4. The Incident Commander should ensure that the name of the individual making the dispersal order and the date/time each order was given is recorded.

5. Dispersal orders should not be given until officers are in position to support/direct crowd movement.

6. Personnel shall use the following Departmental dispersal order:

I am (rank/name), a peace officer for the City of Oakland. I hereby declare this to be an
unlawful assembly, and in the name of the people of the State of California, command all
those assembled at _____________ to immediately leave. If you do not do so, you may be arrested or subject to other police action, including the use of force which may result in serious injury. Section 409 of the Penal Code prohibits remaining present at an unlawful assembly. If you remain in the area just described, regardless of your purpose, you will be in violation of Section 409. The following routes of dispersal are available (routes). You have _______ minutes to leave. If you refuse to move, you will be arrested. *If you refuse to move, chemical agents will be used. (Provide the chemical warning only if use is anticipated).

7. When a command decision is made to employ crowd dispersal techniques, attempts to obtain voluntary compliance through announcements and attempts to obtain cooperation through negotiation shall both be continued. At any point at which a crowd is dispersing, whether as a reaction to police dispersal techniques, through voluntary compliance, or as a result of discussion or negotiation with crowd leaders, OPD dispersal techniques shall be suspended and the crowd shall be allowed to disperse voluntarily. This directive does not preclude a command decision by OPD to reinstate dispersal techniques if crowd compliance ceases.

* * * * * * *

What happens:
1) an unlawful assembly is declared.
2) an order to disperse is announced according to above script.
3) you have to leave or face arrest;
4) you have to leave by the route they are telling you. It is most likely going to be hard to hear that or understand that.
5) It is possible that kettling may take place. This is very dangerous and do whatever you can to avoid situations where the police are kettling.

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